Philadelphia County court blotter

Biographical and Historical Notes

Of the several Philadelphia County court records in this volume, the lengthy forgery case gained local notoriety, with articles appearing in The Berks and Schuylkill Journal and Philadelphia’s National Gazette and Literary Register following the arrest of D.W. Morton and Thomas Layton in November 1828. One of Layton’s relatives who testified at the trial stated that his name was actually Lewis Smith and he came from New York. It is possible that he was the Lewis Smith described in The New-York City-Hall Recorder in 1819, who was convicted of passing counterfeit bills and sentenced to seven years in the state prison.


Rogers, Daniel. The New-York City-Hall Recorder for the Year 1818. Vol. IV, No. 12. New York: Abraham Vosburgh, 1818.

“A Bold Push.” National Gazette and Literary Register, November 25, 1828.

“The Philadelphia Gazette furnishes the following further particulars in relation to the forgery case, published by us yesterday.” National Gazette and Literary Register, November 27, 1828.

“Philadelphia, November 25.” The Berks and Schuylkill Journal November 29, 1828.

Information derived from the collection.

Scope and Contents

This volume, entitled “Court Blotter No. 2,” contains the handwritten record of Philadelphia County Court proceedings and testimony from March 21-31, 1829. It includes case titles, lists of defendants and witnesses, descriptions of crimes, testimony, summations, and verdicts.

The majority of this volume is devoted to a trial involving forged checks and counterfeit bank notes. The trial was already in progress when this volume was created; a notation at the top of the first page stated that the record was continued “from Blotter No. 1.” The defendants, Thomas Layton and J.W. Morton, stood accused of forging signatures on blank checks and then paying a young boy to cash them at Philadelphia’s Mechanics National Bank. The trial concluded on March 24, 1829, after the testimony of thirty-eight witnesses. The volume includes final summations and instructions to the jury. Layton and Morton were found guilty and sentenced to six and eight years in prison, respectively.

A series of shorter trials took place from March 24 to March 31, 1829. These trials involved a variety of criminal actions, including sexual assault, larceny, prison escape, assault and battery, fornication, and forcible entry. The recorder briefly noted the verdict at the end of each trial.

This volume of court records is bound in marbled paper with an octagonal paper label on the front cover that has “Court Blotter/No. 2” handwritten in black ink. On the inside of the front cover is the notation “Court Blotter mentions LEVY” handwritten in pencil. The volume contains 19 leaves of faintly-lined wove paper containing handwritten text in black ink. Four additional leaves of paper are blank.